I do want to thank Chalcedon for his most interesting account of how he came to cross the Tiber. I also recall that when I came first here, I was joining Jessica in her encampment on Mt. Nebo, it seems like yesterday but it also seems like another lifetime.
There is no huge lesson here, other than to trust in the Lord. But I have had a couple of very hard weeks, where I wasn’t sure that I or my faith would survive. Yes, I know that sounds melodramatic but one of the things I have learned is that our spirit controls our body more than we like to admit.
In my post on my journey, here, our old friend David B. Monier-Williams commented, “NEO, I was as others were aware that you had a very special relationship with Jessica. I’m so glad for you that it was so spiritually fruitful.” He’s almost right, it is very special but it is not in the past tense, it never will be in this lifetime, and may well go beyond the grave as well.
You see, when I have problems in my life one of the places I turn for comfort is in Jess’ posts, and they have never failed me. In addition, so often we trigger things in each other, and they show up in posts here and on NEO. One of those instances comforted me this week.
In a post called Dead trees of Covehithe, Jess told us about a holiday she had taken with her sister, to a place I had frankly never heard of. Here is a bit of her description
Travelling down a long and winding road in pursuit of a striking church tower, we found ourselves faced with no more road.We parked by the Church with the great tower, which at first sight was totally ruinous, but on closer sight had, within impressive and massive ruined choirs, a tiny church which was still in use. This was Covehithe – another of the many victims of coastal erosion – once a flourishing town, now a hamlet with twenty people living there.
As we walked along the deserted road towards it end, we could see that it simply stopped – a barrier between us and the crumbling cliffs. A long trail to the left led us along a cliff path which had great holes gouged out of it by the sea. The skyline was dotted with dead trees – killed by the salt-winds coming in from the sea, and as we looked back to the ruins of the magnificent church and to the side at the decaying cliffs surrendering to the assaults of the sea, I thought myself in a landscape which exemplified decay and dying; even in high summer, the trees were dead – a stark silhouette against the darkening sky.
Jessica often triggers feelings in me (No, not those, although she is young and beautiful) 🙂 This passage set me in a mystical mood that I have never felt before or since. I made this comment
I see the trees, dearest friend, the same way you do but, I also see them standing as sentinel, even in death for a civilization that was, and may be again, which is echoed in the remnant church, built long ago itself, in the ruins of the more magnificent that went before.
Much despair there but, also there is hope for the future where men still worship where they have for more than a 1000 years, amidst the ruins, waiting for the glory to return.
And as often happens between us, she picked up on what i said, and extended it into a later post called Faith without a hope?. Where she said this
A last stand, the sentinels outlined against the darkening sky; an air, perhaps, of something that once was and has been again, and is now going? For there is, at Covehithe and Dunwich, evidence of Roman occupation, and how was it, I wonder, for those Roman Britons as the legions melted away and the sea raiders came? With the Romans went a sort of civilisation which would not come again for centuries.
The image of the once and future king is a powerful one, and part of the Arthurian legend. If there was an Arthur, he was most likely to have been one of the last of the Romans, using Roman cavalry tactics to slow down the advance of the Saxons, and like so many of his kind, he retreated into the fastnesses of Wales where the remnants of the Britons kept their faith and their guard for the long years when their country was the prey of invaders. Arthur, real or not, represented the need to believe that the old civilisation had not gone down without a fight, and that all it had represented could rise again.
The Once and Future King. That is indeed a powerful image for all of us cousins, implying as it does that in the end all will be set right, and it also speaks to us as Christians as we remember that our murdered and Risen King will return in Glory. As Dame Julian said, “All will be well, and all manner of things will be well.”
I said then that I thought there was still one more metaphor in regards to the church built in the ruins of the great church. This week as I worked through my problem, I came to understand that as well. All things wax and wane, and change is inevitable. But while our great dreams may crash and burn, like that great church, a more realistic set can be found in that tiny church in the rubble, although the slime and the moss remind us that much sweat and many tears are involved as well. But as the sea continues its inexorable advance at Covehithe it reminds us that as the Book of Common Prayer has it:
[…] in sure and certain hope of the Resurrection unto eternal life, through our Lord Jesus Christ; at whose coming in glorious majesty to judge the world, the sea shall give up her dead;
Blake Morrison has written a poem about Covehithe as well, which was featured recently in The Guardian.
The tides go in and out
But the cliffs are stuck in reverse:
Back across the fields they creep,
to the graves of Covehithe church.
From church to beach
Was once a hike.
Today it’s just a stroll.
Soon it’ll be a stone’s throw.
And that path we took
Along the cliffs has itself been taken,
By winter storms.
The wheat’s living on the edge.
What’s to be done?
I blame the dead
in their grassy mounds,
the sailors and fishermen
longing to be back at sea
who since they can’t get up
and stride down to the beach
entice the sea to come to them.
My problem? It was solved when I remembered my duty, instead of my wishes.